S-1382-18SAP/C 9/22/2013 Hymns: (O) #454 vv1-6; (S) #457; L.S. #458; 459; (C) # 454 vv 7-8
Texts: Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15
Theme: “Learn to Pray” (1Timothy 2:1, 8)
Question: “How do you make your prayers count?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1Timothy 2:1-8).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Beloved in Christ, the Psalmist David wrote these blessed words: “O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:1-2). These words of the Psalmist may well have been ringing in the ears of St. Paul as he instructed his young seminarian Timothy in the art of prayer in the words that serve as our sermon text for today. By that same Holy Spirit, we too, today, will get a lesson on prayer.
Perhaps you have heard the joke “When all else fails try prayer!” While that may get a chuckle, it really is a sad and sinful commentary. Many, even among us followers of Jesus, either are ignorant of or just plain dismissive of the power of prayer. Our society teaches us to be self- reliant and self-supporting saying, “You can do it! If there is a will there is a way!” We buy into the devil-authored lie that we are captains of our own destiny! That’s fine when things are going well. But what happens when we can’t stop the cancer from growing? What do we do when you get the pink slip? What happens when your son is in deep legal trouble or your teenage daughter gets pregnant? Where do you go and to whom do you turn for help? The bottle, drugs, anger, or fishing? We make a mess out of our lives and then turn to prayer to let God clean it up!
Let’s be honest! This is exactly what happens when the situations in life get out of our control. When you can’t see where to go from where we are and nothing has worked, we think, “Well, after we have done all that other stuff, let’s try prayer.” But in doing this we fail to see the value of prayer and then like the divine fire alarm box, “in case of emergency, pray.” We act as if when we fall to our knees and rub our hands together God is going to come out of the bottle like a Jeannie and give us our desires. But oh, how mistaken we are! When we do this we cheapen this tremendous gift we have in the privilege of prayer. We underestimate its power and we don’t take the Lord to whom we pray seriously either!
But aside from all of the joking, prayer has power! It is a conversation with the King of the Universe! We bring our prayers and petitions to the Lord with the promise that He will hear and answer every one of them! James, the brother of Jesus said this: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). PAUSE.
Indeed, the prayer of the saints ascends to the throne of Grace and God’s ears are attentive to them. Yet, we don’t pray often. We don’t go to the Lord with our requests. Some people consider it a waste of time. But not Paul! This man of God knows the value, benefit and the power of prayer and for this reason in the text before states: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”
The life of God’s child is a life of prayer. The one who follows Jesus will follow Him on their knees because that is what Jesus did. Our lives are called in Holy Baptism to reflect that mentality because our hearts have been opened in faith. In faith, we plead with God to hear us and answer our every prayer.
Having said all of that let me say one more thing: All of the prayers we send up to God should mean nothing. Every one of them wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, if the Holy Son of God had not be willing to bear His cross on Skull Hill and lay down His life for the sins of the world. Because of that suffering and death you and I can come to God’s throne to pray. We have this privilege because Christ did what we couldn’t do. He was willing to be cut off from the Heavenly Father so as to open our line of communication with Him! Through His death and resurrection we can know for certain and come boldly and trustingly to God in Jesus’ name and God will give us what we need.
Study the life of Jesus, and you will see Him at every interval of His life and ministry on His bones. He prayed all night before He chose the disciples. He prayed before He broke the bread and fish and gave them to the people. He prayed before the Passover Meal. He prayed in Gethsemane before He went up to skull Hill. He prayed from the cross. In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, Jesus teaches us by example when He prays for Himself, His disciples and even us! In this we can say, “The heartbeat of Christ was a life of prayer.”
Since we are the redeemed children of the Heavenly Father, we are called to emulate Jesus. This is a call to be faithful prayer warriors. We want to be men and women on our knees for our brothers and sisters in Christ, our often pagan and sinful leaders, those who don’t know Jesus, our neighbors and ourselves.
If, when you hear this and reflect on your spiritual life and find that you are not living the life of prayer, you are in the right place! It is here in this place that we return to the font, drown the non-praying or selfish praying old Adam and live the new and redeemed life of thanksgiving and prayer. This Spirit led new life we learn from Jesus and set aside times to get down on our knees and ask God to forgive us our sins, open our eyes to His precious Word and live under His grace.
This new life is what will shift your stuck in neutral spiritual life into high gear. The Spirit will lead you into that deeper connection with the Lord. When we hear words like this we can take them seriously knowing that God wants to hear and answer our prayers.
Today, the Savior leads you in a way that will make a difference in your life and others. Pray in the morning, at noon and at night. Pray when things are going well and when things are going bad. Pray at all times and for all people because Christ has made it possible to address the heavenly Father as OUR dear father! He is waiting for us to ask Him for all of our needs!
Why pray? Because prayer is good for us and others! Prayer changes lives. I share with you an event that happened that changed someone’s life—it’s a true story.
In his book “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” Ken Bailey tells a profound story about the blessings and value of prayer. Listen to Dr. Bailey speak: AFTER THE FALL OF THE SOVIENT UNION, I was privileged to lecture in Riga for the Latvian Lutheran Church. Most of the participants in the seminar were between the ages of 25-35. This meant that all of their education had been in the communist state system, which was determined to indoctrinate them in atheism. I asked one of the young women about how she came to faith.
“Was there a church in your village?” I asked.
“No, the communists closed all of them,” she replied.
“Did some saintly grandmother instruct you in the ways of God?”
“No. All the members of my family were atheists.”
“Did you have secret home Bible studies, or was there an underground church in your area?” “No, none of that” came the answer.
“So, what happened?” She told me the following story:
At funerals we were allowed to recite the Lord’s Prayer. As a young child I heard those strange words and had no idea who we were talking to, what the words meant, where they came from or why we were reciting them. When freedom came at last, I had the opportunity to search for their meaning. When you are in total darkness, the tiniest point of light is very bright. For me the Lord’s Prayer was that point of light. By the time I found its meaning I was a Christian. (p. 91).
Through a funeral in an atheist land the power of prayer—the Lord’s Prayer was on display. This young woman attended church and heard the simple words of Jesus in the prayer He taught us. And through that prayer she came to faith and followed the Eternal Light of salvation.
Today, you and I are those points of light. We pray not because we have to, because we want to converse with our Savior and Lord. We pray because we believe and know that Jesus hears and answers prayers. We pray because it doesn’t matter what you say, or how you say it, as long as it is directed to Jesus who answers every prayer.
It has been said that prayer is a school for amateurs because being led by the Holy Spirit is all that matters. That’s the only expertise you need. Pick a time and place for prayer. Make a list. If you don’t have a particular list, St. Paul gives one in the text. Then just pray! Do it over and over again, day after day. You don’t need new words. Just use the ones that the Holy Spirit gives you. Trust that familiarity does not breed contempt in your prayer life. Familiarity just makes it all the easier to reach out to the One who answers every prayer—Your Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ.
What a blessing to exercise daily on our knees and be in prayer. Prayer is special time spent with the God who blesses us for the sake of His Son, who prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He has forgiven us. He has given us all things. Now, child of God, JUST PRAY! Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA